Healthy eating is important during pregnancy. It will keep you fit and well, and help your baby to grow and develop.
You don’t need a special diet, but make sure you follow healthy eating guidelines and enjoy regular physical activity.
Some nutrients are especially important during pregnancy:
All women who could become pregnant should take a folic acid supplement. If you do become pregnant, you should continue to take folic acid for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. The supplement should contain 400μg (micrograms) of folic acid. Some women may need to take more.
Learn more about folic acid in our supplements section.
You should eat iron-rich foods twice a day. The best sources of iron include:
- Lean red meat
Iron is also found in:
- Green leafy vegetables
- Nuts and seeds
Having some salad vegetables, citrus fruits or a glass of fruit juice with your meals will help your body to absorb iron.
Dairy foods like milk, cheese and yoghurt are the best sources of calcium. Eat three servings per day.
Other non-dairy sources of calcium are:
- Green leafy vegetables (like broccoli or cabbage)
- Tinned fish where the bones can be eaten (like sardines or salmon)
- Soya products
- Baked beans
- Calcium-enriched juice drinks, breads or breakfast cereals (check the labels)
Vitamin D can be made through exposure to sunlight (from March to September) and can be found in certain foods. If you are worried you are not getting enough vitamin D, consider taking a supplement.
Eat 1 to 2 portions of oily fish each week. Oily fish include herring, mackerel, sardines, salmon and trout.
Omega-3 can also be found in linseeds, rapeseed oil and walnuts. If you are vegetarian, you may need a supplement.
For more information on healthy eating during pregnancy, including common problems such as food aversions, heartburn, morning sickness and constipation visit mychild.ie.
Food safety and pregnancy
Pregnant women and their unborn babies are very vulnerable to foodborne illness, as pregnancy affects the immune system. An illness called Listeriosis is especially dangerous for pregnant women.
What is Listeria?
Listeriosis is an illness that is caused by eating raw, chilled, and ready-to-eat foods that are contaminated with bacteria called Listeria.
Listeriosis is rare but can cause serious symptoms and even death in particular vulnerable groups. In healthy adults Listeria can cause a flu-like illness. It can cause very serious illness in the elderly, pregnant women and their unborn babies, new babies and people who have an impaired or weakened immune system.
In pregnant women, Listeriosis can cause miscarriage or premature birth and can result in newborn babies developing meningitis.
How to reduce the risk of Listeria infection?
Listeria is widespread in the environment and so can contaminate lots of foods. Foods of most concern are those that do not require any further cooking or reheating such as chilled ready to eat foods. Listeria can grow at refrigeration temperatures so it is important to observe use-by dates for chilled foods.
Foods to avoid:
- Soft cheeses including blue veined and those ripened by mould
- Smoked fish • Cooked sliced meats (sold as ready-to-eat)
- Cured meats (sold as ready-to-eat)
- Pate from meat, vegetables or fish (Tinned pate is ok)
- Pre-packed salads and sandwiches, and ready-to-eat foods from salad bars and delicatessens
- Pre-cooked shellfish (sold as ready-to-eat)
- Ready meals that do not require further cooking/re-heating
Listeria will be killed by thorough cooking so any of these foods are safe to eat if fully cooked, e.g as part of a freshly cooked meal.
Remember the 4 Cs of food safety:
- Clean: Wash all fruit, vegetables and salad fully just before you eat them.
- Cook: Cook food right through and serve it when it is still very hot.
- Chill: Make sure that your fridge is at 5°C or below. Put chilled food in the fridge straight away. Throw out food that has passed the ‘use by’ date, and if the food packet has been opened, use within 2 days.
- Separate: Avoid Cross-contamination by keeping cooked food and raw food away from each other.